This week’s major releases are a couple of real downers, so instead, I decided to choose a few other titles that might not seem like obvious choices, but surely have their share of diehard fans. And when it comes to the first Blu-ray on my list, I just so happen to be one of those fans.
Who said nothing good ever came of the writers’ strike? While most of Hollywood was forced to sit on their asses (or stand around in a picket line) waiting for the studios to strike a deal with the WGA, Joss Whedon decided to take advantage of his newly earned free time by producing a free-to-the-public internet short that just so happened to be a musical. It was pretty ambitious stuff, but nothing out of the ordinary for Whedon. Still, even with a fanbase as loyal (and some might even say cultish) as his, no one could have anticipated that “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” would turn into the pop culture phenomenon it is today. From the casting of Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day, to the smart writing and memorable music, “Dr. Horrible” is certainly a one-of-a-kind experience. It might seem strange that a show originally conceived to be viewed on a computer screen would be released on Blu-ray, but it looks good in high definition, and its 42-minute runtime makes for brisk and enjoyable viewing. The inclusion of a making-of featurette and cast and crew commentary beefs up the single-disc release, but it’s “Commentary! The Musical” – a secondary track where the cast and crew sing about everything from the writers’ strike to an iPhone game called Ninja Ropes that they played during production – that is the real gem. It’s all very meta, and of course, very Whedon.
Stanley Kubrick’s historical epic celebrates its 50th anniversary with a digitally restored edition of the film available for the first time on Blu-ray. Though I’m not exactly a fan of the movie (it’s incredibly cheesy at times, about an hour too long, and Kirk Douglas just rubs me the wrong way), there’s no denying that it played a major part in Kubrick’s evolution as a director. In fact, you can even spot some of his trademarks if you look hard enough. “Spartacus” is also terribly uneconomic with its use of time – from the overture and intermission to the numerous montages – but it’s still worth seeing at least once. It isn’t exactly the best restoration on the market, but it is a much-improved print that should please fans who’ve become accustomed to watching the film on cable.
It’s barely been a week since the release of “Dragon Ball Z Kai,” but anime fans are already getting another remake of a hugely popular series in the form of “Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.” Whereas “DBZ Kai” is more like a director’s cut of the original series, however, “FMA: Brotherhood” is, for all intents and purposes, a completely new show – although one that tells the same general story, only the way that Hiromu Arakawa originally wrote it in the manga. As someone who never watched the first series, I’m not really sure how different the two are from one another, but after reading some comments around the web, I’m led to believe that they’re different enough to warrant experiencing Edward and Alphonse Elric’s journey of redemption all over again. At the very least, they’ve earned a new fan, as the show didn’t waste any time in winning me over with its colorful cast of characters and action-packed storyline. And unlike “DBZ Kai,” this release features two audio commentaries with members of the English-language cast. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing at all.
Also Out This Week: